DUGWAY, Utah (ABC4) — An exciting delivery was made in the west desert of Utah today — a package from NASA containing materials that could hold the answers to the appearance of life on Earth.
Most people know the thrill of getting a notification from Amazon that a long-awaited package has arrived. The excitement of ripping open the cardboard box and pulling out those brand new chicken-shaped salt and pepper shakers to add to your collection.
What if that package was delivered by parachute after speeding through the earth’s atmosphere at more than 27,000 miles per hour?
NASA scientists were all smiles, with a few admitted happy tears, today when their arriving package did just that. Shortly before 9 a.m., the Sample Return Capsule of the OSIRIS-REx made touchdown a few short yards from the roadway leading into the Airforce testing grounds.
One of the mission specialists, Tim Priser with Lockeed Martin, quipped, “This capsule literally has a personality and it understood the assignment.”
The capsule landed precisely upright and stopped. The orange and white parachute that had slowed its descent to earth lay just yards away. It was in good condition and only showed minimal heat damage even after reaching its maximum heat of 5,000 degrees just 10 minutes before landing.
Scientists, researchers, engineers, and mission specialists all agree it went as flawlessly as it could have gone.
Priser summed up with, “By the way, we made the first touchdown today before any of the NFL teams did.”
Mission control made the Go/No Go call this morning around 4 a.m., with the direction being “GO.” The spacecraft made its way to just a little under 500 miles outside of Earth and released its payload — the SRC containing the sample gathered from an asteroid named Bennu.
The capsule made its way to the landing ellipse — a 250 square mile area in part of the Airforce Utah Test and Training Range on Dugway Proving Grounds and touched down smoothly just about five minutes earlier than anticipated. Once scientists secured the capsule, it was brought back in a special sling by helicopter and loaded into a “clean room” built by NASA to house the sample until it could be secured and shipped to Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The sample will then be divided up and studied by multiple agencies who will compile their findings and share what they have found.